Twenty years ago, writer David Ehrlich noticed a problem. Jerusalem, his hometown, had already produced literary greats such as S.Y. Agnon, A.B.

Yehoshua, Yehuda Amichai and Amos Oz, yet there was no central place for writers to gather, discuss and, most importantly, drink coffee.

Ehrlich began brewing the idea for his coffeehouse/ restaurant/bookstore Tmol Shilshom while traveling in the US, where the concept was starting to catch on.

Named after Agnon’s novel Tmol Shilshom (Only Yesterday), it opened in 1994 in the Nahalat Shiva area of downtown Jerusalem.

Tmol Shilshom’s classic stone facade, a key feature of the 130-year-old building, is illustrative of the city’s original architecture. After sitting down at a cozy table for two in the corner and reading some of Ehrlich’s own writing on the famed custom-designed and everchanging place mats, we went to explore the breakfast buffet. It features a varied spread of fresh, locally inspired dishes, fruits and pastries, all laid out tapas style on Middle Eastern-inspired tapestries and dishes.

We filled our plates with a number of side dishes, such as couscous tossed with grilled tofu, dried cranberries, sliced toasted almonds and tangy fresh herb dressing that balanced the sweetness of the cranberries.

The salmon, served cold and coated in a sauce of honey, dates, cream and a little mustard, was an instant favorite (and could have been a meal on its own). While sipping on cappuccinos, we nibbled on other fresh salads, cheeses, fruits, pasta and sweet and savory pastries. The lasagna was tempting, but we held off, not ready for such a heavy dish so early in the morning.

Though the buffet is definitely worthwhile at NIS 85 for all you can eat, our favorite dish came straight off the menu: the shakshuka baladi, a masterfully prepared Israeli favorite. In addition to the traditional eggs poached in a spicy tomato-pepper-onion sauce, the baladi comes with eggplant, roasted peppers, goat cheese and a generous serving of fresh bread (NIS 44).

Much of the menu has been updated recently.

Tmol Shilshom rightly deserves its reputation for having one of the best breakfasts in town, certainly now that chef Nadel has put added his own Jerusaleminspired recipes and serious commitment to the freshest ingredients. As to Ehrlich’s contributions to the menu: “I can’t even cook an omelet, and we were voted one of the best breakfasts in the world!” he laughs.

In addition to a topnotch breakfast spread, Tmol Shilshom has a full lunch and dinner menu complete with dessert, alcoholic beverages, not to mention the occasional literary or musical event.

Tmol Shilshom Kosher 5 Yoel Salomon Street, Jerusalem Tel: (02) 623-2758; 052-280-5555

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